Distinguished Alumni and Faculty Hall of Fame
Nick Sward MD
Nick Sward is a Family Physician at Bronson Medical Group in Kalamazoo. In his 19 years at Bronson, he has served in numerous roles including Chief of Family Medicine, Medical Director for Home Health Care, Representative for Medical Executive Committee, and Representative for Primary Care Executive Committee. He has been involved in numerous initiatives for community health in Kalamazoo County and served on various committees both within and outside of Bronson. Additionally, he has served as an Associate Medical Director for Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan for the past decade and is a current Associate Clinical Professor of Family Medicine for Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and is involved in teaching of medical students at Western Michigan University’s School of Medicine.
Nick came to White Pigeon as a first grader after his Mother contracted a serious brain infection and could not care for him. He moved in with his grandparents (his grandmother was an 8th grade Math teacher at WP and his grandfather was superintendent of schools at the time). Throughout his early elementary years, he travelled to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Mary Free Bed Hospital in Grand Rapids to visit his mother and that is where his career path in medicine was set. In High School, Nick was active in 3 varsity sports (golf, basketball and baseball) while also receiving the John Phillip Sousa award for his work in marching/concert/jazz band, where he played tenor saxophone. After HS, he attended Michigan State University for his undergraduate degree in Biology and then went on to MSU’s College of Human Medicine where he earned his MD. He did his internship and residency training in Kalamazoo at the MSU Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies. After graduation, he was recruited by Bronson and has been in the same practice ever since, having cared for thousands of patients ranging in age from birth to 100+.
Besides a full time career in medicine, in 2015 Nick decided to venture into the business world to help channel his artistic outlet and co-founded West Lake Metal Works which creates metal artwork for homes and businesses throughout Michigan. In just 4 years, his company has expanded to have works in stores throughout the state and has created products for companies in the US, Europe and Asia. In fact, the large WP Chief head in the Elementary school lobby was created by West Lake Metal Works!
Nick is married to Heidi, who is an RN/BSN and completing her Nurse Practitioner degree at MSU. He has 3 adult daughters (Paige, Anna, Sarah) who are all carving their own paths in the world. Nick also has a 2 year old grandson, Emmett. In his spare time, he is an avid cyclist and spends hours on his bicycle raising money for the Michigan chapter of Make-A-Wish and rides their annual Wish-A-Mile event riding 300 miles in 3 days from Traverse City to Jackson.
Laney is a White Pigeon High School graduate who was very active during her years at WPHS. She was senior class president, an officer in Student Council, President of Interact and a member of National Honor Society. She also participated in cheerleading and cross country.
During her junior and senior years she took a full schedule of college classes from Glen Oaks Community College and held down two part time jobs. Laney is a difference maker!
Laney is currently a senior at the University of Michigan set to graduate in May 2019 with a degree in Communications and a minor in writing. She has just completed a public relations internship primarily based with the Grand Rapids Griffins (an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings) and has previously held communications roles with Harvard University and USA Hockey. Laney is the Sports Department Co-Editor of The Michigan Daily. She has won an award for Investigative Sports Journalism while at Michigan and has also been awarded the LSA Internship Scholarship for two years.
Keri A. Yoder
Thank you for establishing the Distinguished Alumni and Teachers of White Pigeon Community Schools program. I am humbled and grateful to have been elected to join the second class. Due to my schedule, I am unable to appear in person to enjoy the activities and speak to current students. I am very sorry to miss it.
I attended W.P.H.S. from 1989-1992, when I graduated as valedictorian. During my time at W.P.H.S., I had the privilege of participating in the Youth in Government program as a mock trial attorney. That experience was invaluable and informed my decision to pursue a career in law. Other highlights from high school include my participation in sports—basketball, volleyball (Superintendent Erlandson coached me early on!) and softball. The skills required to excel in both sports and school have shaped who I am today.
After graduation, I attended the University of Michigan, where I graduated with Distinction, Honors in English in 1996. English was my favorite course at W.P.H.S.; our teacher Mr. Smith inspired me in part to pursue this area of study.
During college, I decided that it was time to explore other areas of the country. I applied to several law schools and eventually decided to attend the University of Colorado School of Law. I had never been to Boulder, Colorado before moving there, but it was the right choice. It is sunny most of the time and beautiful. On the first day of law school, I met my future husband Kevin (he was in all of my classes). He and I had many camping, hiking and skiing adventures in the mountains on the weekends, while studying hard and making our way through law school, graduating in 1999.
Following law school, I moved to the “Western Slope” of Colorado to work in a law firm practicing general civil litigation and employment law. In 2001, after Kevin and I got married, we moved to the mountains, eventually landing in Telluride, Colorado. Telluride is a small ski town located near the “four corners” area. For fourteen years, I worked as a prosecutor in Telluride and surrounding communities. During that time, we had two beautiful daughters—Maya (14) and Bryn (12). Kevin works as the town attorney for Telluride.
In 2016, I applied to become a district court judge in our judicial district, which is comprised of six counties (it is about the geographical size of Rhode Island). In Colorado, district court judges handle felony criminal cases, domestic relations cases, and civil cases involving disputes over $15,000 (the same as a “circuit” judge in Michigan). Judges are not elected here, but appointed by the governor following a nomination process. In early 2016, I interviewed with the judicial nominating commission, which is comprised of approximately ten community members—both attorneys and lay people—from throughout the district, along with one Colorado Supreme Court justice. I was lucky enough to be appointed and started my career as a district court judge on March 1, 2016. I currently commute nearly an hour and a half one way at least two days per week to cover my felony criminal docket in Montrose, Colorado. The other days I remain in the Telluride courthouse, where I handle civil cases, divorces, and a smaller felony criminal docket. In November 2018 I was retained by the voters to serve another six-year term as district court judge.
Our lives very much revolve around outdoor activities and travel. We have been fortunate to travel to Europe several times, even skiing there twice. My parents Glen and Debbie Yoder moved near us six years ago, and we spend substantial time with them. Life is great, but also quite busy and challenging.
Warm wishes to all of you in attendance, and best of luck to all of you students embarking on your careers. Remember to work hard, play hard, and to serve your community.
I spent my youth along with four brothers on a farm in Union, Michigan. I was raised in a family where education was prized very highly and a must to achieve. I think this might have had an influence on why from little on up I wanted to be a teacher. Mrs. Gordon, my third grade teacher, was very special and someone I wanted to “be just like.” The White Pigeon Community Schools has been like a beacon of light guiding and watching over me throughout most of my life. It definitely had an important impact on building my educational foundation. It started when I enrolled at Baldwin Prairie as a very shy, introverted Kindergartener and exited there as a sixth grader who felt confident to sign a petition to the principal requesting the right for the girls to be able to wear shorts on the last day of school. Yes, we did wear them but they were worn under our skirts. I then made the “big move” to White Pigeon’s Middle School in the old high school building, walked with my books in arms to a brand new locker in a spanking brand new building, and ended up graduating from there. I wanted to go to a teacher college, but I wanted it to be far away from home. So with my great academic foundation from White Pigeon Community Schools, I packed my bags and headed to Central Michigan University. I received my Bachelor of Science in Education Degree and was in the class that was the first to graduate from Central’s newly built football stadium. I was so excited at this point to begin my teaching career in the Early Childhood field. My first teaching position was right back at Baldwin Prairie in the fourth grade. After my first year of teaching, I married my husband David. We bought our first home in Mottville. We later became a Hoosier when we moved to an Indiana Lake home. I received my Masters of Art Degree from Western Michigan, and graduated with several other White Pigeon elementary teachers. I ended up teaching upper elementary grades for thirty fast-moving years in the White Pigeon Community Schools. I retired from a full time teaching position in 2003 and quickly moved right into subbing at WPCS. I was persuaded that working in the MS/HS In-School Suspension Room would be an adventure I would enjoy. After two years, I decided I enjoyed subbing more so I returned back to the subbing world. I continue to sub and also help monitor the spring state testing program. Teaching and working with children is something I continue to enjoy and has given me so much joy and many rewards. I cherish the many memories I have collected from being a student to being a part of the White Pigeon School staff. So as you can see, White Pigeon Community Schools has been the beam of light that has provided me with a protective guidance, a life-long education experience, and in a much enjoyed profession. It is such an honor to join White Pigeon’s “Hall of Fame.”
Lisa Trosien is a professional speaker, consultant, author and influencer in the world of multifamily real estate. She is utilized as an industry expert by such media groups as the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, CBS Marketwatch, Washington Post, National Public Radio and more. She has presented to thousands of industry professionals across the United States and Canada and is well known for her strong platform skills, cutting edge materials and humorous yet educational style.
She credits her high school speech class at White Pigeon High School for setting her on the road to becoming a professional speaker.
I was born in Constantine in September of 1938. I have lived my entire life in White Pigeon and graduated in 1956.
I entered Western Michigan University in the fall of 1956 and studied education, to be an elementary teacher.
My major was Rural Life and Education; this was a two year degree for teachers. After two years you were issued a state limited degree which allowed you to teach K-6 all subjects. The last two years you had to continue your education until you received your Bachelor of Science degree.
After the BS degree I continued until I received my Master’s degree in Elementary Education and went on to get another Master’s degree in Administration.
In the span of 45 years, I taught in a one room school (Cook School) for six years. It was west of White Pigeon and was grades K-6. After that I spent two years in Three Rivers at Laek Section School teaching third grade.
In the fall of 1966 I was approached by then superintendent Mr. McKenzie to come to White Pigeon and teach Kindergarten. Later I became principal of Little Chiefs Village in Mottville and Baldwin Prairie School in Union. I retired from White Pigeon after 37 years and am currently enjoying retirement.
Mekayla Eppers is a 2007 graduate of White Pigeon High School and a 2011 graduate of Albion College, where she participated in volleyball and track. She was crowned Miss Indiana in 2014 and was a semi-finalist in the Miss USA pageant the same year. Mekayla was named Mrs. America in 2018 and currently owns her own business as a pageant coach.